Monday, August 27, 2012

Another World Championship for Japan

Omedetou gozaimasu to Tokyo Little League for bringing another world championship home to Japan, beating the US Squad from Tennessee 12-2 (stopped after 5 innings due to the 10-run rule) in the championship game.

I've seen quite a bit of the tournament over the last 10 days, and Japan was truly spectacular, outscoring their opponents 35-5 in five games.  Japan has won the LLWS 7 times before, but usually playing "small ball" - relying on bunts, defense and situational hitting.  Well, these boys brought the defense and smarts, but also displayed huge power, leading the field in HRs, and a staff loaded with power pitchers.  They were clearly the best team in the field.  Honda Gorou would approve.

I was also pleased to see how much fun this team seemed to have under 72 year-old skipper Kubo Youichi, who won his second LLWS crown.  They were a very relaxed group and Kubo-sensei himself smiled often, and I haven't always seen that from Japanese LLWS teams.  The standouts were the intimidating 6' 200-pound Kiyomiya Koutarou, who hit some of the longest home runs I've seen in Little League (he posed in a Babe Ruth jersey this week) and pitched four overpowering innings today despite being squeezed by the obviously biased home-plate umpire, and Osaka Noriatsu.  How good a day he Osaka-kun have?  Three HRs and a triple in 4 ABs, and he closed out the game on the mound.  In fact he closed out several games for Tokyo, who used him very much the way professional teams use their closer.

9 comments:

  1. That 6-foot 200-pounder was literally one of the largest 13-year-olds I have ever seen, from Japan or otherwise. Their only game I watched was against Chinese Taipei, which was unfortunately the least actively engaging of them all.

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    1. I thought the Taipei game was the most entertaining of the tournament, actually - fabulous pitching and defense from both sides. It was about the most well-played LL game I've ever seen.

      Actually, the team from Petaluma, CA (just up the road) had a 6'3" kid. He was taller and a good player in his own right, but Kiyomiya-kun was the better athlete.

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  2. Any way to watch the game online?

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    1. ESPN3 should have a replay available for online viewing.

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  3. Congratulations to Japan. Thanks for posting this!

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  4. Wonder if Tennessee weren't still a bit tired from that marathon of a game they had vs Petaluma ( I was rooting hard for them!)

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    1. I was rooting hard for Petaluma in that one. No doubt they suffered a little letdown, but let's not kid ourselves - Japan was the better team, and has been in every game they played. Even the Tennessee coach admitted afterwards they weren't likely to beat Japan, even if they hadn't had that 24-16 marathon.

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  5. In Japan kids take baseball SERIOSLY like really. I'm amazed that the majors arent filled with a crapload of Japanese prodigies. but I guess thats just because its so rediculously hard to go to the majors.

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    1. It's also because the Japanese pro leagues are pretty darn good, and not every good Japanese player necessarily wants to bolt to America at the first opportunity.

      Yes, kids in Japan do take baseball very seriously. I saw the final game at Spring Koshien last year, and I was struck not just by how solid the players were fundamentally for boys that age, but by how little emotion of any kind they displayed. That was one thing I really liked about this Japanese LL team - they really seemed looser and more relaxed than the Japanese squads I've seen in the past.

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